Remittances drop by 8.3% in September amid Saudi repatriation

MANILA, Philippines – After hitting a 5-month high in August, remittances coursed through banks by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) fell again in September this year.

Data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Wednesday, November 15, showed that OFW cash remittances totaled $2.186 billion, a drop of 8.3% year-on-year from September 2016's $2.383 billion.

But year-to-date, total cash remittances are still up 3.8% to $20.78 billion, compared to $20.02 billion from January to September last year.

The BSP attributed September's drop to an 11.7% decline in cash remittances from land-based workers which offset the 6% increase in transfers from sea-based workers.

The countries that registered the biggest declines in cash remittances in September were Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Australia.

The BSP said that for Saudi Arabia, in particular, the decline "could partly be the result of the continued repatriation of [OFWs] under the Saudi Arabian Amnesty Program which started last March."

A total of 8,467 undocumented Filipinos took the initial offer, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). The Saudi Arabian government decided to extend the amnesty program in September.

The BSP also said "there are reports that a number of global correspondent banks have closed their service facilities on money service business, reflective of the increasing global trend to reduce correspondent banking relationships and focus more on home market."

"This may have partly affected remittances flows during the month," the central bank added.

At the same time, personal remittances from OFWs, which include non-cash items, also fell 7% to $2.44 billion in September compared to the $2.66 billion in the same month last year.

Total personal remittances for the 1st 9 months of 2017 stand at $23.16 billion, up 4.8% from the same 9-month period in 2016. – Rappler.com